“I write about life, which is our greatest gift (Mattie Stepanek; died from dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, a month before age 14 after – being told he would not live to be age 5, writing six (6) poetry books, and encouraging tens of thousands through his appearances on various shows. President Jimmy Carter said he was “the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known;’ Oprah said he would always be one of her most memorable guests. Matthew Joseph Stepanek died without earning much money, and his parents received little monetary value for his death; but what was the value of his life and what is the value of a life?
This article shall explore the value of life and a single life or soul. There are numerous ways to value life, and even some of the definitions and concepts change overtime; however, the focus of this work will be on the following: Who is defining the value? What is a human life? What is the value of a single random person from a global perspective? What is the value of a person according to their country? What is the economic Value of a Statistical Life? What is the value of a slave, soldier or worker? What is the value of an unborn child? Is it just for a nation to allow the growth of multi-billionaires? What is the value of a person by various persons or relations? What do the Scriptures say about life? What would a person give to save their soul?
|“…Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life (Pope John Paul II; Evangelium Vitae).”|
Who is defining the value?
There are truths concerning the value of life, but great difficulty in finding many of them. Moreover, there is complexity because the values and concepts are continually being altered or amended by human sources. For example, today because slavery is illegal; some say the value of a life is ‘priceless;’ or at least millions or billions of dollars depending on the lawyer or jury speaking. Yet, when slavery was legal there was an average monetary value by region that could be calculated for a particular time; for example, in terms of 2017 about $5,000 to $10,000 per young adult male slave. Later in this article it is shown that the value of that slave’s life differed according to the occupation or relation of the person making that value – the buyer, the trader, the tribe that took the slave; as well as by the parent, spouse or child of that slave. Today, similar differences occur for various occupations of workers or status of individuals and by region of residence.
What is a human life?
All rational teachers of philosophy, economics, religion or biology understand that humans breath and “move and have our being (Acts 17:28),” but most do not believe in our Creator or understand our complete being. The apostle Paul reminds us that we have a “spirit, soul and body (1 Thes. 5:23).” The Scriptures also teaches “the days of our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years; yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).” And today, over 3,500 years since that was said, the average global life expectancy is about 72 years old.
And it is written, “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).” Some translations say ‘a living person or a living creature;’ and man is both – a living person and a living being, creature or organism capable of cellular growth, reproduction and having a consciousness. However, our days are limited in our flesh or body; but not according to our soul. This distinction causes great differences in teachings of the value of life – for many do not believe in eternal life, hell or the soul of man; thus, they value life monetary, philosophically or emotionally.
What is the value of a single random person from a global perspective?
Today (2017) there are about 7.5 billion people on earth. According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s The Global Wealth Report 2016, total global wealth equals $256 trillion dollars. Credit Suisse also noted in the Report that “the bottom half (50%) collectively own less than 1 percent of total wealth, the wealthiest top 10 percent own 89 percent of all global assets.” China has 18 banks with $21 trillion in assets, followed by the U.S. having 12 banks holding $12 trillion, Japan with 8 holding $10 trillion and the U.K. with 6 holding about $7 trillion. The U.S. Federal Reserve has total assets worth about $4.5 trillion. There are about 60 stock markets in the world with a total value of over $ 70 trillion (2016/2017 average).
The Real Estate in the World is said to be worth $200 to 220 trillion; and All Global Debt is said to be about $200 trillion. The present value of derivatives is an unrealistic casino of $600 trillion to $1 quadrillion. Likewise, some estimate total global capital to be $700 to $800 trillion.
Credit Suisse placed the 2016 wealth per adult at $52,800; and median wealth at $2,220. Not looking at all natural resources, such as reserves or water; and using a reasonable net worth or global wealth value $250 trillion, a single random person’s is worth about $33,300.
|Worth of 1 Average Person = or $ 33,300
= Total Global Worth ($250 trillion) ÷ World Population (7.5 billion)
What is the value of a person according to their country?
The ‘Median Wealth per adult’ varies by country. In 2016, the United States’ total wealth per adult was about $344,700 and the median wealth per adult was about $45,000 (total U.S. wealth was about $85 trillion). Though Switzerland’s total wealth was $3.5 trillion; it’s wealth per adult was $565,000 and median wealth per adult about $245,000 – highest in the world. In 2016, the median wealth per adult in China was about $5,000; and in India about $600. Malawi had the lowest Wealth per adult at $107; also in the bottom five was D. R. of Congo at $396 and Ethiopia at $422. Nevertheless, the value of a person to their country or the world is much more than their financial assets minus their financial liabilities.
I person’s contribution to society is directly related to their value. Their contribution to the disciplines of science and technology; the taxes they pay; the sacrifices they make for others in their nation; their teaching and encouraging others; their character impact on culture and society. Thus, there are a myriad of variable and methods to determine value and the present value of a person’s future contribution.
What is the economic Value of a Statistical Life?
In 2016, the U.S. DOT issued a ‘Memorandum to… Administrators’ stating, “the Economic Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) in U.S. Department of Transportation Analyses… was increased to $9.6 million (from $9.4 in 2015)… The benefit of preventing a fatality is measured by what is conventionally called the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL), defined as the additional cost that individuals would be willing to bear for improvements in safety (reductions in risks) that, in the aggregate, reduce the expected number of fatalities by one.” The Memo said that “when an individual is willing to pay $1,000 to reduce the annual risk of death by 1 in 10,000, she is said to have a VSL of $10 million…. (yet) the assumption of a constant VSL is not appropriate for substantially larger risks… paying $2,000 to reduce risk by 2 in 10,000 or $5,000 to reduce risk by 5 in 10,000” which would make the VSL equal $50 million.
In EU-27 countries, the VSL in 2016 by HEAT (Health Economic Assessment Tool) was €3.387 million, but for the WHO European Region ‘the default’ HEAT used was €2.487 million. And in Russia, based on insurance studies paying indemnities of 30 million to 150 million rubles based on various losses; the average statistical life was found to be $1.6 million or about 8 times less than in the U.S.; although in some cases of employee deaths, the family was paid 100,000 rubles by the Social Insurance Fund or $1,700.
In 2014, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget put the value of human life between $7 million and $9.5 million. That number was $4.2 million ($182,000 per statistical life year) by Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister. The U.S. Office of Secretary of Transportation (OST) noted that ranges between $5 and $13 million should be used for 2016 VSL analysis. In the U.K., according to the RSSB the VPF for 2016 used by the Department for Transport (DfT) was about £1,830,000 ($2,350,000). Thus, cost-benefit analysis very by nation, region and the agency involved. These values assume life expectancy (average 40 more years) and interest.
It should be noted that in 2012 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented ‘a number of meta-analyses of the value of a statistical life’ to the European Union. In part the Report stated:
|OECD: “The value of statistical life (VSL) is still a highly contentious subject in economic research. In the minds of many, “You can’t put a price on life!” However, observations of individual and group behavior paint quite a different picture. When purchasing an automobile, for example, a driver will seek a trade-off between expensive safety features and the price of the car. Likewise, government authorities may weigh the impact that closing a dangerous factory (because of environmental or health concerns) would have on the job supply. Since societies must contend with a large number of risks (traffic, environment, health, etc.), regulators must intervene as effectively as possible to reduce these risks. As a rule, the utility associated with reducing a risk must compensate for the disutility associated with the cost of reducing that risk. And in performing this type of “cost-benefit” analysis a monetary value for human life can prove invaluable. Many studies have attempted to address this issue, but the values obtained exhibit a high degree of variability (the figures placed on this value in this document apparently range from $2,660 to $20,000,000!). The purpose of this study is therefore to gain the best understanding possible of these variations in order to provide insight for policy makers… In all, 1,095 values from 92 different studies were collected.|
The Report talked about “methods” for determining the VSL including Cost of Indemisation (Indemnification; insurers, etc.), Human Capital (Foregone production; etc.), and Willingness to pay (WTP) or accept (by Individual and Society). The point here is to note the vast difference in the assignment of value in a thousand studies – from thousands of dollars to $20 million a person; remember that the average of 1 global human’s worth is about $33,300.
What is the value of a slave, soldier or worker?
In the lower south colonies of America in 1740, at the time of purchase a young adult male slave (commodity) was about $125; or $370 in 1800 (equal to about $8,000 in 2017). That same slave may have cost a Portuguese slave trader or merchant $40 on the Upper Guinea Coast where they may have been purchased from an African Muslim Merchant or European Merchant. The Kongo/Congo/Bonny tribe leaders (now part of Nigeria) who kidnapped or captured after war and sold that same slave with 10 others to the Muslim or European Slave traders may have accepted a large brass pan, 4 iron pots, 95 yards of cloth, 2 muskets, 20 kegs of gunpowder, 100 flints, 2 bags of shot, 4 knives, 4 hats, 6 bunches of glass beads and 14 gallons of brandy. The value of that life was different to all, even to his family.
The value of a soldier has changed dramatically over time. During the early Roman Empire soldiers in the First Century were paid day less than a Denarius a day (maybe less than a farm worker – Matt. 20:2). And part of their pay was in food and clothing rations. However, many Legionnaires had their pay supplemented with booty of war and even the sale of prisoner of war slaves. In the past centuries, volunteers and subjects fought for their nations, kings and barons for little or no compensation. During the American Revolution or War for American Independence the Private British Soldier was paid 8 pence a day. He paid six-pence per week for the women of the Company to do his laundry, one pence to the barber, about 4 pence a day for rations and a small amount to a the Royal Hospital for Pensioners. Many soldiers ‘hired out’ to supplement their merger income.
In 1814, a U.S. Navy marine or sailor made about $14 per month, plus a ration per day (14 oz. of bread; 1 pound of beef or pork; some cheese and a ½ pint of distilled spirits. After the Civil War, in 1870 a Navy warrant officer made about $110 a month when on duty at Sea; about $80 a month on Shore Duty and about $60 when on leave. By early twenty-century soldiers and their families were being better taken care of; and since during World War II, in the U.S. many soldiers have taking advantage of the GI Bill for college or training programs; received pensions and much higher pay, often better that civil jobs.
Moreover, if a soldier is killed in action today, there family typically receives from $250,000 to $750,000 in death benefit; plus a lifetime pension. Soldiers are given lifetime free healthcare options and during service much better equipment, body armor including flak jackets (bullet proof) than was given even a generation ago or during the Vietnam War. But the value of a soldier was far more than monetary. To many chieftains or captains a soldier was not worth much, just a number to attack or defend with; but to others they were great heroes and family members.
The common laborer or worker was typically just a needed servant to make the owners and stockholders rich. The History of Manufactures in the United States (Clark; Vol.1) reported that manufacturing companies in the U.S. in the early to mid-19th century often used child labor; for many more than half their general laborers were children. The Slater Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company hired children between 7 and 12 years old and 50% of their employees were children in 1833. Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century (Lebergott; 1960) recorded that “paid farm labor at that time; it was usually between $8 and $12 a month with board (housing) included. However, during the California Gold Rush days, farm hands in 1850 earned $60 a month, 400% about the rates paid in the Midwest… until after the Civil War.”
Thus, until the time of Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (setting minimum wages and standards) and other such laws; employers would typically pay as little to workers as possible based on supply and demand for jobs as opposed to justice and fairness. And likewise, until OSHA (1970), even the safety of employees was not a priority for many employers.
Yet, still today children are hired to keep up with competition; and most adult non-skilled laborers are paid very low wages (except many in government positions, where many states struggle to keep up with pension obligations – while few non-government companies offer defined benefit plans and only 401Ks). And Wal-Mart and many other multi-national Retail corporations have been found guilty and settled child labor cases, as well as for factories burning down and killing workers due to poor conditions; such as in Bangladesh.
And studies show, as by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI; June 2015, Top CEOs Make 300 Times more than workers) that it is not uncommon in large corporations to find the CEOs earning outrageous salaries and benefit options. The EPI reports how these unfair compensations harm workers and reveal how people are valued.
|“The chief executive officers of America’s largest firms earn three times more than they did 20 years ago and at least 10 times more than 30 years ago, big gains even relative to other very-high-wage earners. These extraordinary pay increases have had spillover effects in pulling up the pay of other executives and managers, who constitute a larger group of workers than is commonly recognized.1 Consequently, the growth of CEO and executive compensation overall was a major factor driving the doubling of the income shares of the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent of U.S. households from 1979 to 2007 (Bivens and Mishel 2013; Bakija, Cole, and Heim 2012). Since then, income growth has remained unbalanced: as profits have reached record highs and the stock market has boomed, the wages of most workers, stagnant over the last dozen years, including during the prior recovery, have declined during this one (Bivens… 2015). …Average CEO compensation for the largest firms was $16.3 million in 2014… From 1978 to 2014, inflation-adjusted CEO compensation increased 997 percent.”|
As long as Central Banks gives cash flow and backing to giant corporations; the CEOs will continue to be valued at 100 to 400 times the mere laborer and the stockholders (owners) will be valued priceless above all – at all cost it is the profits that matter; laborers are only tools to profit and non-human labors (robots and computers) are more efficient, make less mistakes and don’t required health care or increase retirement cost. The bottom line is to most Government politicians and Corporate CEOs the average ‘human life’ is not to significant.
And in high unemployment nations and illegal industries things are worst. According to The Guardian (July 31, 2017), ‘Human Life is more expendable:’ why slavery has never made more money, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (Harvard Kennedy School) “has calculated that the average profit a victim generates for their exploiters is $3,978 a year. Sex trafficking… the average profit for each victim is $36,000 a year… (some) estimate sex trafficking accounts for 50% of the total illegal profits of modern slavery…” The article noted that the “UN’s International Labour Organisation believes at least 21 million people worldwide are in some form of modern slavery.” The value of human live to many who use and abuse people or pay for illegal or immoral goods and services is almost zero.
What is the value of an unborn child?
In criminal law some states in America (as many countries) define a fetus (typically an unborn baby older than about 8 weeks) as a person under fetal homicide or ‘feticide’ laws. Other states increased the penalties for crimes against pregnant women without calling the fetus a person. In 2004, the U. S. Congress passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act which legally or morally states that an embryo or fetus is a ‘child in utero… a member of the species Homo sapiens… carried in the womb…’ and a legal victim. Yet, due to abortion rights laws, they stopped short of saying that a mother is guilty of crime for ‘legally’ choosing to abort their ‘child.’
In Civil Law, primarily because it relates to money for the lawyers and monetary compensation for losses to the family of the unborn, juries, courts and tort law recognize the Fetus or child as a viable organism or unborn child in the cases of wrongful death or negligent injury to the child. For example, a parent or parents have been awarded millions of dollars for the loss of their child due to accidents or negligence. And it is not uncommon to see a ‘birth injury settlement’ of $3 million where a baby suffered permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen at the hospital. It is true that someone must now care for the disabled child – society chooses it has a right and a value and should not be put to death.
And society says that it is not the parents obligation to bear the burden alone; however, in one part of the nation a certain family (perhaps unable to afford better counsel; although lawyers take these cases for no charge UP FRONT – 25%-40% after settlement) could receive $200,000 for the same thing that another family with the same facts would receive $3+ million. Thus, to varies juries the unborn child has various monetary values and to the attorneys that could mean a million dollars. Nevertheless, it is the whole of society that carries the burden; because rarely do hospitals go bankrupt and turn their assets over to the parties settling with them – their issuers pay for the lost and their cost go up to compensate the increase in insurance premiums.
The American Adoptions website says ‘abortion is final, adoption is just the beginning.’ It states that from October 2011 to September 2012, Planned Parenthood reported 327,166 abortions and only 2,197 adoption referrals. One (1) adoption for every 149 abortions; this is typically because the mother does not want to deal with possible shame or future consequences of previous bad choices. During 2011, the Guttmacher Institute reported 1.2 million abortions vs. 14,000 adoptions; which would be a 1 to 86 ratio. Though adoption is a free service (or in many cases the parent is paid), abortion cost in many ways – mentally and monetary.
|In the United Nations publication Abortion Policies and Reproductive Health around the World (2014) they reported: “…In about two thirds of countries in 2013, abortion was permitted when the physical or mental health of the mother was endangered, and only in half of the countries when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or in cases of fetal impairment. Only about one third of countries permitted abortion for economic or social reasons or on request… Countries with restrictive abortion policies have much higher levels of maternal mortality… according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2008, an estimated 43.8 million induced abortions occurred in the world… an estimated 47,000 women die each year from complications associated with unsafe abortion…|
It should be noted that WHO states the risk of death for unsafe abortions is 1/270 and that in 2005 of 210 million pregnancies a year (63% live births), about 78 million end in miscarriages/stillbirths (15%) or induced abortions (22%). And that in developed countries there are significantly less unsafe abortions – very few – in the U. S. that even in 1972 of 130,000 known illegal or self-induced abortion procedures, only 39 women died; through since 1980 an average of less than 10 women die a year in America due to abortions.
As to adoptions, in 2012 there were only 8,668 children adopted in the United States; and according to Britain’s Newcastle University, of the top 23 countries for adoption in 2011, only 23,626 children were adopted – down from about 45,300 in 2004. This is in part to regulations in Russia and China (50% rise in number of children in orphanages from 2004 to 2011); and for example, Syrian and Iraqi children are not able to be adopted. That World War II over 50,000 children were adopted over the next 20 years (1946 to 1966). Adoptions now offer rightly require background checks and suitable financial well-being; however, much of it has become about politics and money rather than about the care of the child being adopted.
This section speaks to the difference in the value of unborn and newly born children. UNICEF estimates that there are more than 150 million children who have lost a parent and 18 million who have lost both; and more children in foster care or institutions than are being adopted. In the U.S. through abortions are down from the million+ a year to about 900,000 in 2016; numberofabortions.com reports that worldwide for the first 8 months of 2017 there were over 26 million abortions and since 1980 worldwide over 1.46 billion. But using these facts, there is less than 1 adoption in the United States per 100 abortions; and 1 adoption worldwide per over 1,600 abortions.
Is it just for a nation to allow the growth of multi-billionaires?
Before World War I and the Federal Reserve Central Banks there were no billionaires. Rockefeller helped created the Federal Reserve and some say became the first billionaire in 1916. Nevertheless, after every major war up until President Reagan and Congress changed the tax code in the early 1980s, the top tax bracket was between 70% and 90% roughly from the Civil War to WWII. After Regan lowered taxed the National Debt passed a Trillion dollars. Now we have over 2,000 billionaires in the world and a National Debt in the U.S. of about $20 Trillion (2017). Without the Federal through banks throwing billions into the economy through bank loans and raise Congressional Debt ceilings – there would not be the billionaires we have today.
But the question here asks is it just to allow such a growth of super-billionaires? Understand most of these families made billions through government contracts and tax breaks. But to put it in perspective in 2017 the Walton Family (Sam Walton – founder of Walmart) is worth over $105 billion; and so are Microsoft’s Bill Gates ($86B) and Paul Allen ($20B). That is the say these alone are worth about 95 million of the world’s poor people ($210 billion ÷ $2,220 Global Median Wealth = 95 million); or 6.3 million average global citizens; or over 4.7 million average adult Americans. Is it sane to have a few people having as much wealth as all the people in Colorado or Alabama? Is it just in a world that the top 10 billionaires (8 from the U.S.) are worth over a half a trillion dollars are more than the wealth of many nations? The value of the poor in the world is seen here – pawns worth little to nothing, as we protect the interest of billionaires and allow so many of the world’s poor to starve, remain uneducated, have no safe drinking water, sleep in miserable conditions and the like?
What is the value of a person by various persons or relations?
What is the valve of a person by their parents, family, friends, teachers, politicians, lawyers, insurers, generals, murderers, rapists and terrorists? Most parents, spouses, siblings (brothers and sisters), and children love and seek to care for their intimate family members. They will open their homes, treasuries, mortgage their homes, buy life insurance policies, and give their lives for their considerably valued loved one. As it is said, ‘blood is thicker than water.’ And often friends and teachers will sacrifice much for a valued friend or student.
However, we it comes to overs rarely, except in military circumstances will another human give their life or a significant amount of their money or resources to care for a stranger or an associate or acquaintance. And most military leaders only see their troops as assets and numbers; not to say that in civilized nations they don’t care for the well-being of their soldiers – just that they are not likely to give up a large portion of their salaries or benefits to them.
And certainly in the cases of offenders and evil or wicked people such as murderers, rapists and terrorists; they have no love or care for their victims. And see how little valve the Nazis had for the Jews (killing half their worldwide population during WWII); or how ISIS kills Christians – ISIS: We kill Christians (Graphic) – and terrorist groups child soldiers – Child Martyrs: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, & other Islamic Extremists – seeing little or no value in them. Now, it is interesting the cost a government will pay to house or kill an enemy: War, Weapons and Economics: Killing for Money and Politics
In the case of insurers, they typically have to answer to their stockholders or board members; and though many good insurers pay dividends and seek to often quality customer service, care and products; ultimately their policyowners fall into large groups of numbers and risk pools. They are in business and must make decisions to generate profits. In a sense, the same can be said for most politicians; though a few care for their constituents; for most the bottom line is self-interest (whether their ideology or the lobbyists who reward them) and voters are a required means to an end – not highly valued loved ones. And see how they assign different values to people – $2.1 to the families who lost relatives in 9/11; then an average of $400,000 to the families of fallen U.S. soldiers; and then about $200 per death of Afghans killed during American occupation.
Now, in the case of tort lawyers, they place high values on their clients (the victims) not because of love or true justice – but most often for the love of money. We all care about and value our fellow-citizens, but is a $23 billion jury reward to a family for damages from big-tobacco; or a $150 million to a 13 year old for the wrongful death of her family who burned to death in a car crash and brother who committed suicide after – a just reward to be carried by society who will pay the cost in increased insurance premiums or product cost? And is it just for an attorney to make $30 to $50 million in such a single case; or in class-action cases to make millions of dollars when the average awards is hundreds or even a few thousands (how about an attorney such not make more than 100 or even a 1,000 times the average class action reward – then maybe justice will prevail and society will not bear the cost as often as it currently does)?
What do the Scriptures say about life?
First consider your own life. It is written, “for what shall it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36).” What would a person give to save their soul? If they believed in an eternal life after judgment by the Lord God, one would think that they would give everything. Yet, that is rarely the case; and perhaps why “many go the easy way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13).”
But the Bible or the Holy Scriptures say were are to Love our Neighbor – Who is my neighbor? And it says, “As we have the opportunity, let us do good unto all people; especially to those who are of the household of faith (believers in Jesus Christ; Gal. 6:10).” Then if goes further for those that will imitate Christ, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).”
See how God values us; “The Lord …desires that none should perish (in hell) and that all would be saved (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4);” so much that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”
Civilization and societies have come a long way from the ancient dynasties in Asia and tribes in Europe and the Americans all who killed and enslaved their fellow human beings. In many past dynasties such as in Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome it is estimated that between 20% and 40% of the entire population were slaves. Yet, today we still have a long way to go before we get anywhere close to valuing all humans as equals and worthy of justice, care and love.